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    Fridge Brilliance 

A lot of this overlaps with Shown Their Work, as the biological meaning of the setting won't be obvious when the reader checks out their biology textbook.

  • While bacteria are presented as evil villains and larger multicellular parasites as kaiju, the viruses are shown as inert "hats" that turn people into zombies... because, biologically speaking, viruses aren't actually alive at all, just infectious particles!
    • Similarly, the Cancer Cell is portrayed as a Tragic Villain who doesn't understand why people hate him... because, again biologically speaking, cells will destroy themselves if they sense they are becoming cancer cells. He literally cannot understand what is wrong with him, that's why he's a threat!
  • Compared to the more calm-natured immune cells, the neutrophils' Ax-Crazy disposition makes sense: in real life, neutrophils are so naturally aggressive they actually kill any healthy cells that are in the way when fighting, so much so that they're programmed to commit suicide within days of being created so they don't cause serious harm to the body.
  • Macrophages having a maid motif makes sense, as macrophages remove dead cells and bacteria from the body, while also caring for and nurturing young erythroblasts.
  • The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium is depicted as dressed like a queen, with a yellow dress and a gown resembling grape-like clusters, which is actually based on their real-life microscopic morphology and the color of their colonies on culture media.
    • A pair of Streptococcus appear in episode 8, and they have a single head tendril resembling a chain of balls, just as how real Streptococci form chains in their colonies!
  • Why does Basophil speak in a long-winded, poetic way, forcing other cells to interpret his messages? Because we still aren't sure about what exactly Basophils do.
    • They have some ability to alert eosinophils, which is why Eosinophil seems to understand what Basophil is saying.
  • While it's easy to dismiss Mast Cell's Berserk Button at being called a "fat cell" as a woman being sensitive about her weight, it makes further sense when one considers that Mast Cells have nothing to do with fat and this Non-Indicative Name is due to the fact that they were once thought to be a nutrient transporter, fattening surrounding cells.
  • In the main series, the Red Blood Cells are coed, but rather than simply gender flipping them in Cells at Work! CODE BLACK, the squad is all men. There's a good chance that the main series host body actually has AB type blood, with As and Bs treated as separate genders. Of course, this becomes a bit problematic when one remembers about the lack of A or B antigens making a person have O-type blood (and even the extremely rare Bombay Phenotype if they don't have H antigens either!), and doesn't help with determining more with how RH factors for Erythrocytes can be a thing, depending on whether your blood is positive or negative. This gets further elaborated on in the Fridge Logic section.
  • In the beginning of Episode 4, Eosinophil is fighting a germ with a spiral-shaped lower torso and tendrils for arms, and a spiral-shaped appendage on its head. While the bacterium is not named, it bears a notable resemblance to a spirochete, a coiled bacterium known for causing diseases such as Lyme disease and leptospirosis.
    • During Staphylococcus' invasion in episode 2, one of the germs in her horde was a long, blue, coiled bacterium, with a humanoid torso on one end and a shark-like mouth on the other end, which closely resembles the actual Leptospira bacterium.
  • In chapter 15, we meet the monocytes, who in the manga universe are just macrophages wearing what appear to be some sort of hazmat suits. Way back in chapter 2, there is a brief panel where an as-of-yet unknown monocyte appears to be drinking tea with a macrophage, hinting at the connection between them before they're officially named as a cell type.
  • In Episode 7, Neutrophil, NK, and Killer T are all attacked by a gruesome mass of cancer cells, made up of multiple twisted heads, limbs and bodies horrifically fused together. Played for horror, sure, but also similar to real-life cancer cells, with undefined cytoplasms and multiple nuclei all massed together and no longer visible as individual cells!
  • Why does Eosinophil have twin ponytails? Because the distinguishing feature of an eosinophil is its bi-lobed nucleus!
    • The two fluffy parts of her hat are a better reference to that though.
  • In episode 1, the platelets are shown attempting to unpack calcium, but failing to reach it. As it was not delivered separated (ionized), they were unable to use it!
  • In episode 8, the inferior vena cava is uphill, since the venous blood returning to the heart is moving against gravity!
  • Red Blood Cells' cargo involves 4 cylinders of compressed oxygen. In real life, each red blood cell can carry 4 oxygen molecules, one molecule on each of the 4 subunits of hemoglobin. On top of all, oxygen molecules specifically bind to the iron ion embedded within each subunit.
  • The nasal cavities warm and humidify the air that enters, so it's fittingly depicted as a sauna.
  • While design-wise Staphylococcus already resembles its real-life counterpart, the idea of them combining into a bigger form is a reference to their bacterial colonies which are individual bacteria forming into clumps.
  • The body's somatic cells, or the Ordinary Cells, are represented by individuals living in apartments, because not only are they the same species as all of the other body cells, but also because somatic cells IRL exist within an extracellular matrix, which is what the infrastructure is actually representing!
  • One of the Killer T cells' secondary jobs within the body is to stimulate exhausted immune cells, essentially motivating them not to give up and keep going. With that in mind, Killer T's personification as a Drill Sergeant Nasty becomes even more fitting. To drive the point home, we actually see him doing just this during the hemorrhagic shock arc, albeit to a normal cell instead.
  • The way Killer T Cell reacted when U-1146 spoke fondly about AE3803 and his hopes that immune and non-immune cells could eventually get along becomes way more understandable when you consider the fact that T cells are specially designed for the purpose of killing the body's own cells - in this world, it's literally their day job to kill cells just as friendly as AE3803 without hesitation if they become cancerous or infected, lest they pose a threat to the body. From his perspective, he's protecting U-1146 from potential heartbreak at best, and a path that would compromise his duty as an immune cell at worst. Crosses over into Fridge Horror when one imagines just what kind of horrible things this guy has had to see and do in his time, and what kind of psychological damage it would do if he weren't raised to be so desensitized to it. No wonder the T Cell training is so brutal...
  • During the battle against Cancer, Eosinophil showed up to join the fight. While it may seem strange for her to be there, given her introduction had her fighting a parasitic worm, it makes sense. An increase in blood eosinophil levels can be triggered by the presence of parasites, but also allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases, and, yes, cancer.
  • During the hemorrhagic shock arc, one germ we see being fought off is the Pseudomonas aeruginosa, returning from the bone marrow episode. While it may just be one of many Back for the Finale cameos, it could also be a reference to the fact that P. aeruginosa infections are extremely common in hospitals, which the body must have been taken to at some point given the way the episode ends.
  • Everyone throwing a tantrum whenever the poor Mast cell does her job isn't just a gag. This is how pain works. Your cells send out a Distress Call, which the brain interprets as discomfort. Being rapidly (and forcibly) rearranged by hystamines is no fun, so they get mad, and that's why your sinuses feel like complete ass when you're sick.
  • The carcinoma is referred to as "buggy" by a T-cell. Another word for a computer error is a bug. Cancer forms from an error in a cell's coding.
  • One kind of Opportunistic Bacteria is represented as a Kitsune. Kitsunes are trickster fairies who could help you one day and harm you the next, which is largely how opportunistic bacteria act.
  • While cancer usually causes problems by quite literally sitting there eating all the pies (and therefore doesn't trigger much of an immune response), the carcinoma elicits a huge response from the immune system because he's actively trying to destroy the whole Body-he's an aggressive cancer!
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    Fridge Horror 
  • With cells as people, how many cell deaths are glossed over in the series? Realistically, red blood cells in a scab eventually die as they dry up, neutrophils that consume too many germs eventually self-destruct, and platelets are eventually consumed by leukocytes once their job is finished. And let's not forget how individual cells have life spans measured in days...
    • Excluding traumatic death by bacteria, scrape wound, or sickness, or just being in Cells at Work! CODE BLACK, cells which reach the end of their normal biological lifespans return to the bone marrow to have their clothes and equipment changed. The cells have also been shown to have days off, or other jobs, such as the Platelets sweeping up the leaves from the Dendritic cells' offices.
    • In Code Black, it's depicted as having their corpses eaten by the liver cells.
  • In the "Scrape Wound" episode, there is mention of the 'outside world' from which there is no return...with cells depicted as tiny humans, what would it be like for them outside the body, with blood coagulating and drying once exposed to air?
    • Most likely, it would be similar to what would happen if you suddenly found yourself in outer space - the low pressure would result in your body beginning to loose internal pressure, taking bodily fluids and gasses with it. Which adds it's own level of fridge horror - what sort of panic must something like a bloody nose cause?
  • Megakaryocyte is the cell that produces platelets, here she is depicted as a mother who gives birth to lots of children so they can do heavy manual labor...
  • If life in a normal body wasn't terrifying enough with its daily threats and bloodthirsty immune system going at them, imagine the terror of the other cells who live in a body that suffers from "Autoimmunity" instead. Talk about the Inquisition and its witch-hunts reaching a whole new level of personal terror in that case, when it occurs in one's own body instead...
  • Can you imagine what a blood test must be like from the cell's perspective? If their human is sick and goes to the doctor, thousands of them will get sucked out of the body into a tube, frozen in a refrigerator, and to an unlucky few, dripped onto a slide and dried and stained with chemicals, or for some counting procedures, the red cells are lysed (read: disintegrated alive) before being preserved as a stained sample. Yikes.
  • And do the humans in-universe know that cells are microscopic sentient beings? Because a simple blood extraction would be a massacre of little anime people in their world...
  • Since all the cells technically grew and divided from a single egg cell, does that mean that everybody in this body are technically siblings? Which would put a disturbing twist on any romances between them...
  • Enucleation of immature RBCs is depicted as the removal of a bobble on top of their hat, but since a nucleus is more like the brain of a cell...
    • In Cells at Work! CODE BLACK, one red blood cell even mentions how their "organelles were removed to carry hemoglobin." Did they literally have their equivalents of hearts ripped out and the cavity filled with even more "blood"?
  • Episode 6 shows a young AE3803 as an erythroblast, being chased by a Pseudomona. Except they are in the bone marrow at the time, which means the poor person has had a bone marrow infection, which is very serious.
  • Erythroblast can't leave the bone marrow because of her hat nucleus, but what would reticulocytes look like in-universe? Immature teen cells forced to work too young without graduating yet, due to a lack of deliveries?
    • Reticulocytes are a natural part of the red blood cells' life cycle, a time period just after red blood cell is enucleated but before they're fully mature. In universe it's more likely to be some form of internship or maybe a part time job. They get enucleated, are taught the basics of navigating a couple times, then get declared fully matured and go off on their own.
    • Going from this, Red is probably a Reticulocyte herself, since she's still being mentored until about halfway through the series.
  • The main protagonist is a normal red blood cell and is attractive-looking, but one shudders to imagine what abnormal poikilocytes like spherocytes or sickle cells would look like in context... (though Fridge Humor if you imagine macrocytosis as very overweight courier delivery crew...)
  • And none of this even gets into what things must be going on outside the body. For instance, what sort of accident was the cells' host body in that hypovolemia ensued, requiring a blood transfusion to stop?!
    • Not necessarily anything super dramatic. People get into trivial accidents all the time every day because sometimes things just happen like that. The body can go into shock, or lose a lot of blood easily, if something happens just the right (or wrong depending on your view) way....(Cutting oneself while cooking,for example). The body's condition did get extremely bad, but given they were able to be taken to a hospital and given a blood transfusion, and appeared to suffer no major organ damage from whatever the accident was, things aren't necessarily so bad as all that. While it could have easily been something as dramatic as a stab wound from a mugging, it could just as easily have been, say, the body falling on something sharp by accident.
    • It gets revealed that the cause of the hypovolemia is a head injury. It doesn't mitigate the Fridge Horror in any way.
    • Again, trivial accidents that can turn deadly can happen all the time. While the event itself and how it almost led to death were scary, the cause of the accident may not have been. Getting into a fight where you got hit in the head, or even tripping and knocking your head on a rock or counter edge can happen to anyone.
  • The "Cells as People" metaphor can be a bit disturbing in that their society is highly rigid, even a bit xenophobic. This is best shown in the cancer cell arc where they kill the cancer cells as children just for existing. It's justified in the context of the setting, but it's still a bit creepy to think about.
    • It's been shown that the regular cells are aware of the immune cells' harsh sense of justice, and are deeply uncomfortable with it.
  • In episode 9, T-cells that fail Positive Selection are humorously dropped into a trapdoor. However, in real life, self-harming T-cells are made to undergo apoptosis...essentially equivalent to them being forced to commit ritual suicide!
    • Not only that, both the trainers and recruits tell the weaker trainees to "quit" or "resign" if they can't handle the program. Considering how the body runs in a very rigid system where non-functioning cells are hunted down and killed, this would mean that the non-performing trainees are constantly being told to just go and die.
    • This is commented on during the Thymocyte flashback: Dendritic Cell hopes that the future Killer T and Helper T survive and it would explain (future) Helper T's anger when (future) Killer T sounds like he's going to give up. The cells appear to be well aware of what awaits "washouts," even if the series doesn't make it explicit.
  • Episode 10 has a giant Staphylococcus using the fibrin as a weapon to trap the Neutrophils. And they Platelets are standing around, looking terrified...are they having a My God, What Have I Done? moment, as it was them who laid down the fibrin?
  • Also the fact that the Staphylococci are trying to avenge their cousin they've never met. Do all germs in-universe have some sort of Hive Mind?
    • Actually yes. Biologists explicitly compare it to the internet, so it's like that one 3rd cousin you only talk to on Facebook Messenger but know everything about.
  • HeLa in this setting would be horrifying. Usually, even in the best conditions cells eventually stop dividing and die, even most cancer cells. There are significantly mutated cell lines, mostly cancers, which are immortal; HeLa is the oldest of the human ones, and about fifty tons of it have been grown from one tumor in the past sixty-odd years. These cells proliferate fast even for cancer, and survive outside of a body or a controlled setting well enough to contaminate and replace other cell cultures kept in the same lab. A Cells At Work HeLa would be some kind of Eldritch Abomination, huge and composed of cells not even as recognizable as Cancer Cell.
  • Natural Killer Cell angrily denies being "envious" of Neutrophil after he opens up about how much he admires and cares about AE3803, wording which implies that he couldn't have a friendship like those two have even if he wanted to. Now compare their two lines of work: Neutrophil spends his days fighting against Card-Carrying Villain invading bacteria, while Natural Killer Cell is specifically trained to kill the body's own cells if they get infected, who are depicted in this universe as his friendly allies and neighbors. It's in his own best interest that he not even consider making friends outside of his immediate kin, a fact that makes his jerkass behavior a pretty obvious coping mechanism. How many times has this guy gone home after killing yet another innocent cell that was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, wishing he had been selected to be something else?
  • According to An Actual Doctor Reacts to Cells at Work, the reason the Body keeps getting sick may be because it has cancer, which leaves less goodies for the other bodily systems.

     Fridge Logic 
  • How do Ordinary Cells create clones from tubes, if cloning is about growing new organisms from single cells and...they ARE cells. It would have actually raised fewer questions to have them simply split into two identical cells...
    • If you see the floor plan of the ordinary cells' apartments, you'll see that they look like a cell structure, and those tubes represents the cell's nucleus which stores the cell's genetic material from which the copy is made. Apparently, the cells' homes represent RL cells almost as much as their inhabitants, in this setting.
  • Episode 2 showed at least a dozen Platelets at the scrape wound, but the wound is the size of a city block! And the fibrin they were carrying was about as big as a bedsheet, how did the Platelets patch it up? Were there just more Platelets offscreen?
    • Perhaps the platelets surrounded the wound on all sides and the fibirins naturally stretched to come together in the middle.
  • How come the Cancer Cells came in several different forms, and only one seemed to be sapient? There were also a number of them that were fully-formed, but seemed to be mindless creatures, while others were half-formed blobs with empty sockets for eyes, and not to mention the fused mass of cancer cells that attacked NK and company.
    • Because the sapient one also happened to be the first one and therefore, much older than the others, not to mention better constructed than the rip-offs he later made. It can be seen as a case of Clone Degeneration, since the copies he made would be less properly done and once he had them do the mitosis, they would create even worse copies of themselves, essentially culminating into the blob of flesh that is a cancer tumor.
  • At what point is a cell type represented as a single character or as an entire job occupation? We see multiple Neutrophils, Macrophages, and Killer T Cells, even though one of each is focused on as a main character. However, we only ever see one Basophil, one Eosinophil, and one NK Cell, even though NK refers to herself as "an NK Cell".
    • Likely an artistic choice. We get so attached to our main characters, WBC and RBC, because we see those specific cells of their type over and over. Would kind of take the wind out of your sails if you saw Eosinophil earn respect and then never again. It also depends a lot on the status of our main duo. They move through the blood vessels a lot, so they would likely see some types of cells more than others. Hence why we see so many WBCs, RBCs, Platelets, and Macrophages, while other cells like Eosinophil, NK Cell, B Cell, and Memory T Cell serve better as singular characters, who we will remember over numerous different faceless uniforms who keep changing.
    • In the case of cells like Basophils and Monocytes, seeing only one of them around might be justified, as it is known that they comprise only a very small percentage of white blood cells and would therefore be rare anyway.
  • Why does Eosinophil take part in the final battle against Cancer Cell, in Episode 7? And how is she suddenly so effective against anything other than worms?
    • Her job is making her effective against parasites not just worms, and technically, a cancer cell is nothing else but a giant parasite in the body. It makes sense she would participate in a combat against it. Why she's there? Well, she is not solely stationed in the stomach, she can move around just like White Blood cell does, it was explained in her introduction.
    • Also, Eosinophil is shown to battle things other than parasites. She's capable of phagocytosis and tries to fight a bacteria, she's just not as strong as other white blood cells. And, as noted in the Fridge Brilliance entry above, eosinophil levels are elevated in the body with the occurrence of certain types of cancer.
  • If Ordinary Cells are cloned in tubes then why were the Cancer Cells children in the flashbacks? Ordinary Cells seem to come out of the tubes fully grown adults.
    • Probably because, in this case, a replication error could be considered both a weird side-effect of their world and an artistic choice - we still don't quite know how the genetics of tumors work in general, be they malignant or benign.
    • Cancer cells have unregulated, rapid growth and are immortal. This is similar to the behavior of stem cells (the precursors of fully differentiated mature cells), only deranged, so showing the Cancer cells as children makes sense.
    • It may have been part of the replication error. It would explain why they were wearing adult sized clothes in the flashback.
  • If the characters ARE blood, then why do they bleed? It's even weirder for the germs, who should at least have had Alien Blood to represent cellular fluids.
    • Cytoplasm. They bleed cytoplasm. The red is simply an artistic license, such as the skin cells being depicted as infrastructure rather than some sort of eldritch living mass.
  • Why are some cells male and others female, if they are all part of a single human body?
    • Testosterone and estrogen are both present simultaneously in a human body, regardless of the gender, just in different amounts which does determine it. Aka, the cell population in a woman would be mostly "feminine" while in a man, it would be mostly "masculine". Nothing strange here.
  • How exactly did Staphylococcus 'do her homework', are bacteria somehow organized and know what other germs in other bodies are up to?
    • Horizontal Gene Transfer. Bacteria can exchange antibiotic resistance and virulence factors on plasmids. In their world, that would look like bacteria plotting in a Bad-Guy Bar.
    • Maybe she already infected/killed another organism, whose blood couldn't form a clot? The human had to get her from somewhere.
  • How did Eosinophil not fall into the stomach along with the Anisakis when she jumped atop it?
    • It's not mentioned in the anime or the manga, but it's not just Neutrophils that have L-selectin. Many other kinds of immune cells, such as Eosinophils, have it too.
  • In Episode 6, NK Cell beats up Killer T and insists on taking the Ordinary Cell all by herself, saying that she's more powerful than them and they'll just be a drag. However, we later find out that the Ordinary Cell is really Cancer Cell in disguise, so was she just being a self-centered Jerkass, or was she actually trying to protect Neutrophil and Killer T from the dangerous mutant?
    • The manga identifies that NK Cell was just toying with the cancer cell, and was genuinely bored. That's why she was trying to discourage the other immune cells from following her: she wanted to face the cancer cell on her own. This was because she didn't think the other immune cells could stand against a cancer cell and she didn't want them to get hurt.
  • Various cells are shown to have been children (or in the context of the setting, immature cells) at one point, but what about the Platelets? Will they always be children?
    • They are the smallest cells in real life, so probably yes. They're more comparable to cute midgets than actual children.
    • The cells in this universe seem to stop aging after they reach maturation (e.g. Macrophage and Dendritic Cell, for instance, were already adults when the other characters were still developing and remain as such at the present timeline). So unless platelets mature into some other form (which they don't), they'd probably remain as they are seen right now.
  • What, exactly, do the normal cells represent? The most basic cells of the body are probably tissue cells - epithelial, connective, etc. - but those are represented by infrastructure.
    • Actually, the somatic (tissue) cells, are represented by the ordinary cells. the infrastructure actually represents the extracellular matrix that those cells inhabit - which is even more fitting, seeing as it's represented by apartment buildings. Obviously, a little bit of artistic license is taken with how mobile the ordinary cells are, as they don't move all that much IRL, but it's still quite fitting.
  • How did White Blood Cell survive his fall in episode 11? There was nothing to break it, and the water would have flowed in far too late to sweep him up before he hit the ground.
    • Plot Armor?

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